The new SPL season is underway and with both sides of the Old Firm starting well, it looks like business as usual with regards to the title race.
I am a Celtic fan and hoping for a successful season. As will every fan expect the same for their team I presume. Here are my predictions for the title and for the three remaining European places.
The Hoops will be more determined than ever this season as they look to erase the disappointment of last term from their minds after losing out on a final day showdown to Rangers. They do badly need a keeper and now a replacement for the injured Emilio Izaguirre but I believe manager Neil Lennon will solve these problems before the transfer windows closes. Lennon is in his second term as Parkhead boss this year and will be itching to go one better than last season and steer his team to the SPL trophy.
He has already brought in centre half Kelvin Wilson and right back Adam Matthews to tighten up his defence. As well as midfielder Victor Wanyama to go with an already strong midfield of Commons, Kayal, Ki-Sung Yueng
, Brown and Ledley who are all capable of causing opposition teams problems.
Add to that two very good strikers in Anthony Stokes and Gary Hooper who both hit the 20 mark last term. Celtic I think will have to much quality over their rivals this season and take the title back to Parkhead.
This year the Gers are in a rebuilding process with new owner Craig Whyte taking over the helm from David Murray and new manager Ally McCoist taking over from Walter Smith.
They have already showed signs of struggling under their new boss after a 1-1 draw at home to Hearts on the opening day of the season and crashing out of the Champions League to Swedish club Malmo. Madjid Bougherra is also on his way out of the club with him soon to sign for Qatar champions Lekhwiya.
This will be a big blow for Rangers with him being so influential for them in seasons past. However manager Ally McCoist is looking to the future and has brought in some new faces with him re-signing Kyle Bartley on loan, Lee Wallace, Dorin Goian and Juan Manuel Ortiz. He is also looking at Roland Juhasz from Anderlecht and Matt McKay from Brisbane Roar.
If the Rangers boss can bring in a couple more players before the window closes to go alongside quality players such as McGregor, Davis, McCulloch, and Jelavic, then his team might be able to mount a challenge for the title. However I feel his squad is still rather short in terms of quality and numbers and they will ultimately fall just short of Celtic in the title race. They will though finished comfortably in second place.
The Jambos were being tipped to challenge the Old Firm for the title this year after finishing third last season and strengthening the squad well in the summer.
They managed a draw at Ibrox in the opening game of the season and were looking good. That is until owner Vladimir Romanov wielded the axe again this time to manager Jim Jeffries. Paulo Sergio has now taken over as manager and I feel it will take the players a little while before they get used to the way Sergio wants them to play. Ultimately costing them points in the process. Hearts have a good squad with players such as Kevin Kyle, Rudi Skacel, Andrew Driver and Andy Webster to name a few.
As well as the signings of John Sutton, Mehdi Taouil, Jamie Hamil and Danny Grainger which Jim Jeffries made in the summer. They have the potential to mount a title challenge. However the constant interference from the owner Romanov is never going to get them anywhere. He needs to butt out and let the man he pays to do the managers job do it.
In my opinion Hearts will start slow and come on strong as the season progresses but third is the best they will achieve this year.
The Steelmen I think will surprise a few people this season and build on their league position of 6th last year.
Manager Stuart McCall took over from Craig Brown mid way through last season and steered the club to the Scottish cup final as well as a top six finish. They are already sitting at the top of the league this season after 7 points from 3 games and are yet to concede a goal. However they have played a game more than the Old Firm and will surrunder 1st position to Celtic if they win their game in hand.
The Well have though lost striker John Sutton to Hearts but Stuart McCall has brought in Michael Higdon from St.Mirren and hopes he can take over from Sutton and lead the line with Jamie Murphy. The Motherwell boss has also brought in relatively unknown players in Nicky Devlin, Nicky law and Zaine Francis Angol and is hoping they can gel together well with established players already in the squad such as Randolph, Craigan, Hatelely, Humphry and Murphy.
I think it will be really close this year for 4th spot and I am expecting Motherwell and Dundee Utd to be battling it out for the place come the end of the season. With the Steelmen ultimately coming out on top in my view, as the losses of David Goodwillie and Margaro Gomis will be too much for United to cope with. Come the end of the season either Celtic or Rangers or will win the Scottish cup handing Motherwell the last remaining European place for Scotland.